The Chief Missioner Ansar-ud-Deen Nigeria, Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Ahmad, has said that super rich churches in the country must pay tax, adding that religious leaders in churches and mosques are answerable to God and the government.
In an interview with The Punch, the Islamic cleric revealed that a certain law was enacted during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, regarding the church tax issue.
When asked: Do you think the regulations of the Financial Reporting Council are specifically targeted at churches?
He said: I think nothing can be farther from the truth. Arguments or thoughts like that are very reckless, illogical and unfair. I am not a political apologist and I do not belong to any political party. This was a law that was enacted and passed during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan when a Christian, Senator David Mark, was the Senate President. At the time the law was passed nobody said anything; there was no complaint or call for public hearing. There was no apparent criticism of the regulations. It is now only when the implementation was about to start that people are now saying various things. It is satanic to read religion into the codes. Let us look at the fact of the matter; there is the need for transparency and accountability where public funds are involved. In churches and mosques – and churches to a very large extent – public funds are being expended.
It is common knowledge that some of these churches are super-rich with their total worth running into billions of naira, even billions of dollars. Some of them also have businesses. If they are involved in businesses, running universities and expensive secondary schools among other business ventures, then it is only fair for them to be taxed as other Nigerians are taxed. Religion should not be a shield and nobody should hide under the cover of religion to evade tax. Also, it is said that every Sunday there are a number of bullion vans that go to certain churches to take up offerings (money contributed by congregants) and that’s a lot of money.
It is not a bad idea at all that the government should look into this money. It is charity; even funds of charities should be scrutinised. It should be seen that people are giving freely because they are cheerful givers and the question is: is the money used for the purpose it is meant for? I don’t think that should create any problem for either the mosque or the church. It is about transparency. It is about accountability. It is about responsibility. The only area that may appear contentious (in the FRC codes) is when government wants to directly regulate the administration of religions; that will be contentious.